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Tampa chamber leaders consider president's future

In the eyes of some Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce leaders, chamber president Harvey Schmitt has brought the business organization from the Dark Ages to the 20th century in just three short years.

But with what some call his harsh and abrasive management style, Schmitt also has stepped on more than a few toes along the way.

Within the next two weeks, chamber leaders hope to decide whether to renew Schmitt's $130,000-plus annual contract or dismiss him.

"I would say it's more (his) style than substance," said Gay Culverhouse, chairwoman of the chamber.

"Harvey has done some incredibly good things and the progress we've made in the last three years couldn't have been made without that man," she said. "But the style under which it was accomplished has not been agreeable to a number of people," including some chamber employees and some volunteers, Culverhouse said.

Schmitt's contract with the chamber is set to automatically renew for another three years beginning Oct. 14, unless chamber leaders cancel the contract by Sept. 14, according to Culverhouse.

The business group decided against letting the contract automatically renew because of the concerns over Schmitt's management style.

"He has never been harsh or abrasive to me, but that's the kind of style we're talking about," Culverhouse said.

As president of the chamber, Schmitt, 44, runs the day-to-day operation of the business group and supervises more than 40 people. He also serves as the main paid liaison between the group and the public.

Chamber executive board members have started reviewing Schmitt's performance now because it is the only time they could meet before September because of scheduling conflicts, Culverhouse said.

She said she hopes the group's executive board will make a final decision on Schmitt's contract by July 4.

Culverhouse said she personally got along well with Schmitt.

"I like Harvey," she said. "We came from the same generation . . . we're both kind of flower children, we're the same age and we listen to the same music."

Schmitt did not return a reporter's telephone calls Monday and Tuesday. Members of the chamber committee reviewing his contract also did not return calls.

Jim Apthorp, a former chamber chairman who helped lure Schmitt to Tampa from Greenville, S.C., said he still thought Schmitt should stay at the chamber's helm.

"I think he's done a good job," Apthorp said. "I know of no reason why he should leave."

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